2019 Shute Shield Season Review: Manly

Things didn’t quite go to plan for Manly at the back end of the Shute Shield season in 2019, but they did give eventual premiers Sydney Uni a serious scare in the opening weekend of the playoffs. 

Coach Billy Melrose moved on following that defeat and spoke to Rugby News about a season that didn’t quite pan out the way the Marlins had planned. 

Overview with Billy Melrose: 

“It was a frustrating year in that we always seemed to be rebuilding and never seemed to have any consistency in terms of personnel throughout the year but in saying that, it was rewarding because we were able to bring in a number of younger, local guys who made their debuts,” Melrose told Rugby News. 

“To win the competition, you need your best team available at the right time of the year. There’s elements of fortune and luck in that and then some of it comes down to physical facts. This year, we weren’t the biggest team in the competition and I think because of that we probably did cop a bit more than some of the other sides. 

“Then we had guys take up opportunities overseas and that’s also out of our hands. As a coach, there’s not much you can do about that.

“So it was frustrating to not have our best side on the park and because of that we were in the mix but probably never quite there. 

“Our finals loss against Sydney Uni (probably sums up the season). I don’t think people really appreciated the quality of our performance that day. It was one of the first games of the year where we had close to a full strength side and we were able to take Sydney Uni apart in the first half. We just weren’t able to sustain that level of physicality after the break and couldn’t match them for 80 minutes. 

“They got on top at set piece time and with their maul and we couldn’t stop them from close to the line. We probably scored four or five tries from close range all year and had about 30 scored against us from two or three metres out. We scored two of every three of our tries from 30-70 metres out so we were playing a different type of footy to the other sides. 

“At the end of the day, that inconsistency hurt us but the boys never gave up and we were always threatening, just not to the level we needed to be to win the competition.”

Which of your non contracted players deserves to go on and play higher honours? 

“We don’t have any contracted players, so it’s hard to answer that. I think that’s an important point to make,” Melrose said. 

“Of the Manly boys, a few came across the from UK and they are certainly up to it. Beaudein Waaka came across from New Zealand and he’s clearly a talent, he just needs to sort out his off field stuff. He’s gone across to America to play. 

“Connor Davidson is a hard working prop who is very dedicated, Alex Humphry is a talented lock from Wales. 

“Kotoni Ale and Harry Bergelin are both older guys that should have got a chance by now. 

“Harry Emery is a dedicated guy who could do it. He’s got the physical attributes needed and I think if he worked hard, he could get there.”

What needs to happen at Manly between now and round one next year? 

“I’m not the coach anymore, so it’s not really for me to say. The club obviously has a certain vision. We’ve worked hard to get the colts program stronger, so it’d be nice to see some of those boys come through. I think developing the talented local guys has to be the number one priority. 

“We had Max Douglas come through this year, Ben Crerar on the wing was strong in his first year in grade. 

“I suppose my answer would be to continue to develop the talent we’ve got at the club to bring them up to the standard so that they can become long term players for the club.”

Bold prediction for 2019:

“I think a few of the young Manly players that debuted this year will be stars in the future if they are developed the right way,” Melrose said.